Bugera V5 Update

Well, I’ve been living with the Cheap Choob Bug now since Monday. I am nursing a slight cold today so, working at home. While Mrs ATG took Nipper 1 to school, with Nipper 2 in tow, then I had my first opportunity to switch the power attenuator to full power.

Earlier in the week I’d played it on the lowest attenuator setting (0.1W output) and the tones, though crunchy, were not that impressive. Similarly with the headphone output, they are a little uninspiring. The overall feel was muddy and dark, even with the tone control wide open.

Since playing it for half an hour on the night I got it, I have been mainly playing through my iPad with JamUp pro and headphones.

Today, with the attenuator turned off, is a different story. I tried it with both my Tele and Agile AL and really enjoyed the crunchy, over-driven sounds that come out of those tubes. The Tone control also begins to function. The cleans lack the sparkle of a nice Fender, but the dirtier tones are really satisfying.

And it’s loud. 5W of tube power easily competes with 20W of solid state (it’s to do with the way tubes distort and how that distortion is interpreted by your hearing). This would easily be OK for louder jam sessions and possibly rehearsing with a drummer (although that might be pushing it).

Overall I am pretty happy and look forward to firing it up again for a proper workout when I again have the apartment to myself.

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Over one year of blogging…

I just realized, I have now been blogging here for over a year. Wahay!. During this time I’ve written a fair few articles about guitars and tangentially-related stuff.

By far the most popular post I wrote was about Bradley Wiggins and his guitar collection. Posted just as he won the Tour de France, this boosted traffic from less than 10 hits a day to several hundred, at least in the immediate aftermath of the tour. Until recently this probably still brought in half the traffic. If you Google “Bradley Wiggins guitars”, then I’m not the top hit, but I am on the first page.

My other greatest hit was just some pictures of my new Agile AL-3010SE Les Paul style guitar, which at just over $300 new is just staggeringly good bang for the buck. I linked to that post from the Agile Guitar Forum. Hundreds of folks have been to check it out — including several hits from Korea, which I like to think could be the manufacturers. If so, then I’d just like to say “Hi Guys!” and “Thanks for making such an excellent guitar!” and “I hope that you pay your craftsmen and women a decent wage!”

Other pages, frankly get little or no readership. But I still think this has been a worthwhile pursuit. I enjoy writing and this gives me an outlet.

In the second year of ATG, then I resolve to

  • Write more about playing and music, less about guitars and gear (after we move back to Helsinki I will have to anyway tame my GAS)
  • Try and be more interesting. Perhaps prepare more instead of just rambling (like this)
  • Branch out to other, tangentially related topics, or just other stuff I find interesting e.g. coffee, live music, Finland, whatevs

If you’re reading this, I thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving

NS

Cheap Choob Bug

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So, after the departure of my little Mustang I modelling amp, I am currently amp-less in the US. One of the reasons I had for getting rid of it was that the tones, although OK, were not significantly better than GarageBand on the Mac or JamUp Pro on the iPad and it was a pain the in neck to use — adjusting tones without a PC connected was frankly impractical.

(By the way JamUp Pro by Positive Grid for iPad is absolutely awesome, combining some tasty amp models with effects and practice functionality such as a tuner, looper with pitch shift and the ability to painlessly import tracks from iTunes to play along with — and you can even get a pedal unit from Griffin called Stompbox that works with it…)

But I miss not having an amp, and I’ve always wanted a tube amp. We’re also soon to leave the US and return to Finland where everything is much more expensive, so the time to get one is now.

Back in the day when I did my amp geekout prior to getting he Mustang, I worked out that the Blackstar HT1 or HT1R might be a good bet (1W amp with headphone output and aux in),  but another interesting one was the Bugera V5 — a 5W amp with the same features, but significantly cheaper. On Sunday night I was invited to a pre-Black Friday event at the Scottsdale Guitar Center and I ended up putting in order for the V5, discounted from $200 to $150, or about $163 after tax.

Opinion on the ‘Bug’ online appears divided. Most user reviews are positive,  but some folks seem to really hate Bugera and their parent company. Behringer, labeling their goods as cheap Chinese crap.

But I am kind of a GAS bottom feeder, so this could suit me down to the ground. We’ll see!

Agile Pics

So here it is. Pretty cool, huh? Especially for the money. Feels GREAT to play. I love it.

Son of El Cheapo: Agile AL-3010SE

So here’s the thing. I hate spending more money than I have to and I like to think I am fact based in my decision making when it comes to buying stuff.

Since El Cheapo left for a new home I have definitely felt that the guitar rack at home has been a little empty (ironic because due to one thing and another I have hardly managed to pickup a guitar in the last 4-5 weeks) and I figured I wanted to get another Les Paul type guitar; mahogany body with dual alnico humbuckers, but this time with a set rather than bolt-on neck. I began researching the options.

The obvious choice would be a Gibson Les Paul Studio. The Studio model is about the same as the classic Les Paul Standard (which is way out of my budget at around $1200 used), but the maple cap that sits on the mahogany body does not have the same kind of figuring, the finishes used are plainer and there is no binding on the body. It’s a Made in the USA Les Paul without the bling. The cheapest of these guitars retail for about $800 new, so let’s say $720 after tax and a bit of haggling.This should put them in the $450-$550 range second hand. Add a case and we’re talking $500-$600. With the $250 I got for El Cheapo and the little Mustang amp, plus maybe another $150 from selling my bass and I would still be at least $100 short.

So then I started thinking about Gibson’s budget brand; Epiphone. You can get a very cheap Epi Les Paul Special II for as little as $150 new, but they are unworthy of the name, being made out of plywood, having a bolt on neck and cheap ceramic pickups.

In order to get a mahogany, set neck Epiphone, you have to look at the Studio or Standard models starting at about $400 new. In theory it should be possible to pick one of these up for $300 or less, but whenever I have tried these guitars out in the store I have been deeply unimpressed.

So I started casting the net a little wider. Ibanez, ESP-LTD and Schecter all do nice looking Paul-alikes starting at about $400. But in the entry models, ceramic pickups seem to be the norm and I really want alnico. You also have to add in the cost of a hard case. These brands also seem to gravitate to metal/shredder guitars as you go up in price point, adding active EMG pickups. This is not the classic Les Paul vibe I’m after.

Michael Kelly do a nicely specced line of guitars called the Patriot, but the body shape is somehow a little off. A Paul Reed Smith Singlecut SE also could’ve been an option, used. But they are pretty rare and are also reputed to have a tone which is lighter and airier than a ‘real’ Les Paul.

But while surfing the web, doing searches such as “best Les Paul under $1000”, then one particular brand kept on popping up– the Korean made Agile guitars, in the US only sold on-line via Rondo Music. The higher end AL-3XXX guitars have specs that you would find on Gibson/Epiphone guitars costing twice as much. Agile has won a devoted following on the web. The quality of the intstruments is said to be excellent. They also, right now have a discounted line of Les Paul style guitars, the AL-3010SE, which seems to be the same as the regular AL-3010, but with plainer appointments (binding, maple top figuring) and a different bridge, but selling for $299. With a flame maple top and ebony fingerboard (as opposed to rosewood), you’d have to compare it to the higher end, Korean (rather than Chinese) made Epiphone Les Paul Plus Customs, which start at about $600.

But after adding in a case and delivery I ended up paying about $380. I should receive my new Agile TODAY! Can’t wait!